Friday, January 23, 2015

Relinquishment - Diane Mettam

I read an article by Catherine Marshall last week about the Prayer of Relinquishment, and found it fascinating.  First, she used the word “relinquishment,” not “surrender.”  Second, she wrote about the benefits of relinquishing certain situations to God.  Coming from a family of very independent women, I have always found it difficult to turn things over to someone else, even God.

My great-great-great-grandmother lost her husband when he disappeared driving cattle to market in 1850.  She was left with two children to raise, one an infant born in a wagon in Coloma in 1849.  Her granddaughter, my great-grandmother, was also widowed at a young age and ran a boarding house to keep her family afloat.  Her daughter, my grandmother, ran a Western Union station on her own in Arizona when she was just 16 years old.  When her husband left her, she also ran a business.  When my father left my mother, my brother and I agreed we would help her keep our house by pitching in with the household and yard duties and watching our spending.  Mom got a job.

I learned to do things by myself, figure things out on my own, make things rather than buy them, learn to repair them.  It’s a skill I’ve always been proud of.  And when I got sick, I figured I could stand on my own two feet, so to speak.  I think many of us feel that way.  We are strong people.  We can take care of ourselves.  We can go to the doctor, follow instructions, take our meds, use our assistive technology, and we’ll be just fine.  We can pray for others, go to church, do what we can to help others.  We can carry on “like always.” 

But it really isn’t “like always.”  I’ve been struggling with this.  I’m not as strong as I was a year ago.  It’s hard to admit that.  It’s hard to even acknowledge it.  And it’s useless to fight it.  But it’s time to relinquish it.  It’s time to ask for my own prayers, as well as praying for others.  It’s time to acknowledge that God is in control, always has been, and always will be.  It’s time to relinquish it to God.  When I started my path to ministry, I prayed the “Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition” with my mentor:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

It, too, is a prayer of relinquishment.  As I turned myself over in trust to God for ministry, so I must turn myself over in trust to God in sickness. 

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Dear God, What opportunities you are giving us this winter to open hearts, minds and doors!  We thank you for the conferences that are taking place, and the doors that are opening up to make all people welcome in your churches.  Help us remember to place our trust in you, and to lean on you when things are difficult, just as we rejoice and give thanks to you when things go well.  Thank you for always being with us, even when we think we can do it on our own.  Amen.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Children's Health Insurance - Beth DeHoff

Information about Children’s Health Insurance Program, January 16, 2015

The CHIP program was enacted in 1997 with strong bipartisan support. It helps working families who earn too much to qualify their children for Medicaid, but too little to afford private insurance plans. CHIP provides coverage and access to high-quality health care services, including essential preventive care that affordably keeps our children healthy. Because of CHIP, the number of low-income, uninsured children in America dropped by an astounding 50 percent, from 25% in 1997 to 13% in 2012, and children are now benefitting from improved health outcomes and access to care.

Children covered by CHIP can receive regular primary care and dental care – two hallmarks of children’s health. Nationally, since CHIP began, the number of uninsured American children has reached the lowest levels in history. CHIP’s flexibility for state design has allowed states to tackle the costs of uncompensated care while insuring more children in ways that work for each state’s unique needs. CHIP reaches children in the core of our nation’s urban centers and in the far reaches of rural America. It is a judicious, cost-effective way to keep children healthy and reduce the costs associated with uncompensated care and the tragedy of preventable childhood illness, disability and death.

Congress has authorized the program through 2019, but federal funding for CHIP is set to expire on Oct. 1, 2015. As each state adjusts to a variety of health system changes, it’s essential that Congress secure CHIP’s future so that children who depend on it remain insured. Without Congressional action, more than 7.8 million children across the country will lose their coverage by 2016, putting their families at risk for a steep increase in insurance costs, a reduction in benefits, and a real risk of losing coverage altogether. Without CHIP, the health of our nation’s children is in jeopardy.

The United Methodist Church has historically been concerned about children’s health insurance. Why? Because Jesus commanded us to care for the least of these, to take care of the sick and vulnerable, and that by doing so we honor Him (Matthew 25:35-45). Proverbs 31:9 urges us to open our mouths and defend the rights of the poor and needy. Please consider asking your members of Congress to do the same with a vote to extend CHIP’s funding. Thank you, and may God bless you in your work for children and families.


Beth DeHoff is the advocacy chair for Indiana's UMC Disability Ministries team, a former member of the Disability Ministries Committee, and the parent of a child with multiple disabilities. She compiled this information for a letter to urge her U.S. senators and representative to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program. She gives permission for anyone who would like to take similar action to use this in whole or in part.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Learning ASL - Diane Mettam

When our children were young we lived in a resort community for a couple of years.  I was fortunate to find employment in the local school district, working in a combined 5-6 classroom.  When I was also assigned to lunch duty, I was given a crash course in American Sign Language (ASL), because our school was the designated “mainstream” school for children with disabilities.

I say “mainstream” in quotes because the children went to our school, but they were in separate classes.  They weren’t really integrated into regular classes.  But I found ASL fascinating, and loved the opportunity to learn and use it.  It wasn’t all glamour - the first phrase I learned was “Sit down now and stay there,” very useful in the cafeteria.  The second was “Go outside and play.”  But I did learn more, and because I had some modicum of ASL I got to go on field trips with the deaf and hard-of-hearing class and get to know them and interact with them. 

I will never forget some my charges.  One boy came to use from the Philippines.  At that time deaf children were not educated in the Philippines, so everything was new to him.  He made up signs.  When we taught him the sign for tree, one arm held upright with the hand spread out, he invented “dead tree,” the arm crashing down 90 degrees.  When we taught him the sign for fish, he taught us a fish being caught, literally a hook in the mouth.  He would laugh with delight as we copied his new “signs.”  Then there was the darling freckle-faced little boy who always took his hearing aids out during lunch.  More than once I had to look for them in the garbage because he forgot to put them back in.  Nothing like looking for little hearing aids in a trash can full of beanie-weenies! 

But I always wondered why everyone wasn’t taught ASL.  Hearing children were certainly eager to learn.  I was given the gift of Spanish beginning in the third grade.  My very wise school district grew even wiser and began teaching everyone to read, write and speak Spanish starting in Kindergarten.  Languages are so easy when we are young.  My daughter’s preschool started teaching her signs at the same time I was learning, and it was very handy that we had this form of communication, especially when we moved to our next home many miles away.  I could sign to her in the car ahead of me, and she could pass messages on to her Daddy.  Very convenient.

According to the National Institute of Health, one in eight people over the age of 12 has hearing loss in both ears.  That’s 13 percent.  Two to three of every 1,000 children are born with a detectable hearing loss in one or both ears.  More than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents.  I’ve always thought it was unfair that we are not taught ASL.  When I met deaf people and could “speak” with them, they were delighted to meet a hearing person who had taken the trouble to “learn their language.” 

There is a movement to encourage the deaf to receive cochlear implants, but this is not the same as “hearing” as we do.  My friends who have received them report difficulties in differentiating between sounds, having their sense of taste affected, and having problems with static electricity.  But I wonder if we are encouraging the deaf to be more “like us” instead of making the effort to reach out to them by learning their language? 

I think of the story in Mark where four friends carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be cured.  When they found they couldn’t bring him into the house in the usual way, they made a hole in the roof to lower him down.  If these friends could make that kind of effort, can’t we learn to use our hands, minds and hearts to speak to our deaf friends and neighbors? 

“. . .but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.”  1 Thessalonians 2:4

Prayer requests:  For all those who are working to draft legislation for General Conference.  May they be filled with wisdom and strength.

Dear God, Help us to bridge the gaps between us.  Help us to learn to speak to each other, and listen to each other, and seek to understand each other  Remind us that we are all your children, and all perfect in your eyes.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.